When Satoshi Yamashiro’s grandfather founded Arao Taxi in 1953, the city of Arao, in Kumamoto Prefecture, was a growing mining town. Today, the Mitsui Miike Coal Mine is gone — having closed 25 years ago — and Arao is better known for nearby Greenland, a resort complex featuring golf, hot springs and an amusement park.

Arao Taxi is changing too.

For the past two years, Yamashiro and two other drivers at his company have been part of an experiment that is seeking to transform public transportation in rural Japan.